Tokyo Olympics: Yu Mengyu falls to world No.1, will vie for bronze

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Singapore paddler Yu Mengyu competes against China's Chen Meng during their women's singles semi-finals table tennis match during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Singapore paddler Yu Mengyu competes against China's Chen Meng during their women's singles semi-finals table tennis match during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (PHOTO: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images)

Reporting from Tokyo

TOKYO — Yu Mengyu's stirring run in the table tennis women's singles competition came to a halt in the semi-finals on Thursday (29 July), as the Singaporean paddler fell 0-4 (6-11, 8-11, 7-11, 6-11) to China's world No.1 Chen Meng at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

The 31-year-old will now have a shot at bronze medal later in the evening, when she will face Japan's Mima Ito, who also lost in straight sets (3-11, 9-11, 6-11, 4-11) to China's Sun Yingsha.

“China’s strength in singles is really beyond me. I tried to think of different solutions but my singles abilities and overall abilities were just not as good as Chen. Whether it was my speed or the weak points, I was unable to cause a threat," Yu told the official Olympic media service after her match.

Yu had met Chen only once before, in the round of 32 at the 2019 Hungarian Open, where she lost in straight sets.

Injury worries for bronze-medal match

Midway through the fourth set, Yu took a lengthy injury timeout to treat her left thigh, causing concerns as to whether she will be fit for the evening's bronze-medal match.

Yu began tearing up when describing her injury condition, and said, "As a professional athlete, concluding a match is very important.

"For me to stand in this Olympic area is already very difficult. So I really didn’t want to easily give up on this match because of injury. No matter what the outcome, I wanted to persevere till the end.

“In the afternoon I will make some adjustments, especially regarding this injury."

This is Yu's best showing at the Olympics, improving on her quarter-finals showing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

On Wednesday, she had stunned home favourite and world No.10 Kasumi Ishikawa 4-1 in the quarter-finals to book a place in the final four. 

Ranked world No. 47, Yu began her singles campaign with a straight-sets victory against Portugal's Shao Jieni on Sunday. She then caused a minor upset in her next round on Tuesday morning by beating world No.8 Cheng I-ching of Taiwan, also in straight sets.

Barely hours later on Tuesday evening, Yu continued her superb form by defeating the United States' Liu Juan 4-2, setting up the quarter-final tie with Ishikawa.

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